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Catechetical point: Have you been good boys and girls this year? Good all the time?
Message: We sin every day, But Jesus was good in our place and gave us His goodness by dying on the cross for us.
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Text: (John 1:6-8) There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.
(John 1:19-28) Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, "I am not the Christ." They asked him, "Then who are you? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." "Are you the Prophet?" He answered, "No." Finally they said, "Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?" John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, "I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.'" Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, "Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" "I baptize with water," John replied, "but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie." This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Jesus said, "For I tell you, among those who are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptizer…." (Luke 7:28, WEB)
And yet, this is the same man who says he's not worthy to untie Jesus' shoe, a lowly slave labor job
So if there's no greater prophet than John, who is worthy to untie Jesus' sandal?
The answer is "nobody", including you and me
John's massage of repentance makes this very clear
And yet, in John's message, we see that, at the same time, we have been given worthiness beyond our imagination
There came a person sent by God whose name was John.
The word "came" here is actually "became"
John was born by a miracle similar to Jesus' miraculous birth (although his mother, Elizabeth, wasn't a virgin)
God, all according to His plan of salvation, sent John at just the right time
God had this plan of salvation before even the world began
So before He created the world, and before He created you, He made sure He already had a plan in place to forgive your sin and give you eternal life with Him
Even though that plan involved the sacrifice of His Son
He came to witness, that by witnessing about the light, all might believe through him.
John came with the express intent to witness about the Light of the world, Jesus Christ
He came with two messages, Law and Gospel
First, to point out sin and lead people to repentance
This is done by communicating the Law
If you know someone (or yourself for that matter) who is sinning, present God's Law to that person to point out the sin
John's main message was simply, "Repent!"
Reject sin for the murderous poison that it is
And recognize that God's Law condemns you to death and an eternity in hell
Then turn away from sin: reject it not only with your mouth, but with your life
But also, He witnesses to the reason for repentance
Because the Messiah is coming to save
And you'll have no use for the Savior from sin if you think you have no sin to be saved from
Of course, whether you think so or not, you have sin
So that's why you need to repent and receive that God has indeed sent Your Savior
He was not the light, but [he came] in order to witness about the light.
Now, as we consider worthiness and righteousness and sin, it's important to note this distinction
We honor God for sending John the Baptist
But John would be the first to tell us that God deserves all the glory—not John
That's why, at funerals, we thank God for the faith He gave to our departed loved one,
But we don't glorify that person, knowing that any good done by that person was God acting through that person
And we ultimately need not concern ourselves with the righteousness of that person except that which was given by Christ
And that's why pastors are to keep opinions and politics out of the pulpit
the focus is always to be on God and His Word, especially salvation in Christ
Because the Gospel alone saves souls from hell
And this is the witness of John when the Jews sent out of Jerusalem to him priests and Levites that they might ask him, "Who are you?"
At this point, the Jewish leaders seemed to be honestly inquiring
So many people are wondering today
What does God really have to say?
Many people have just given up on the possibility of knowing
Even though God spent 1500 years getting His message in print to His people
And another 1900+ years distributing it until today when it's the most widely-printed book in history and is in more translations than any other book
So how will they know if people like John or you or I don't tell them?
There's no way people can know what this great message is without hearing it
And they're not likely to get it from the news weeklies, so God has given His Word to us to share
So by His Word being shared, others may know and receive that eternal gift won for them on the cross
And he confessed and did not deny. He confessed that, "I am not the Christ."
John came to point others to Christ, not to point to Himself
He knew very well that Jesus alone deserved that honor
How different from us!
No, I doubt you ever claimed to be Jesus
But whenever you choose your own way over God's way, you're claiming to be wiser than Him
Whenever you take credit for the accomplishments that God has done through you, you're claiming His glory
Contrary to Mormonism and Hinduism and Hindu-wannabe's like the New Age religion, you're not on the same level as God
Nor will you ever attain such a state
Unless you mean the righteousness of Christ given to you by grace, which is something different entirely
And they asked him, "What, then? Are you Elijah?" And he said, "I am not." "Are you the prophet?" And he answered, "No." Then they said to him, "Who are you, that we might give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?"
The world didn't know what to make of John
And they still don't get it today
They'll claim that "Jesus never claimed to be God"—when that's why He was arrested in the first place
They think Jesus came to tell us how to live a good life
Or to give us 8 steps to perfect happiness
But the message of John was not, "What Would Jesus Do?"
It was, "Repent because of what Jesus is doing for you."
It was, "Rejoice, because Jesus is doing it so you don't have to."
He said, "I am 'the voice crying in the wilderness: make level the way of the Lord,' just as Isaiah the prophet said."
How do you level the path of God?
By being totally blunt and honest about sin
Most, if not all, of the famous TV evangelists and mega-church pastors avoid talking about sin
Confronting sin doesn't make people feel good
And it's not good for ratings to tell people that they can't do it on their own and have failed miserably
I have sinned in this area as well, choosing to avoid confrontation and gloss over damnable sins
Those were damnable sins on my part for which I can only trust in God's grace for forgiveness
Because pretending sin isn't serious does no good for anyone
In fact, that's a gloss, because downplaying the seriousness of sin reduces the sinner's knowledge of his need for a Savior from that sin
If you've ever said or thought the words, "I'm not that bad," then you've been lied to, or you're lying to yourself.
The ones who had been sent were from the Pharisees. And they questioned him and said to him, "Why are you baptizing if you are not the Christ nor Elijah nor the Prophet?"
This is an excellent question! How could John do something that God alone can do? (That is, wash away sin)
Because God works through means!
So when I stand here today and tell you your sins are forgiven, it's as effective in your forgiveness as if a voice boomed from the sky and told you the same
When I baptize a child of God, it is as if I were pouring the Holy Spirit Himself over the child, because I am—He is present through the water
When you receive the Body & Blood of Christ with the fellow members of the Body of Christ, your sins are forgiven
through His presence in the bread and wine
And through His presence in the hearts of those who join you at the Lord's Table
Whether you see Him or not, Jesus is here for you and working through normal, everyday means
John answered them saying, "I baptize with water, but among you stands One Whom you do not know."
And most of them, sadly, would never know Jesus, no matter how many times they'd meet Him and listen to Him
Because they rejected Him
They were too busy listening to their own wisdom
And since it conflicted with the grace of God in Christ, they would only listen long enough to try to find a way to trap Him.
But if you don't know Jesus, He'll say to you on the last day, "Depart from Me. I don't know you."
"He Who comes after me, Whose sandal strap I'm not worthy to untie." These happened in Bethany beyond the Jordan where John was baptizing.
We don't deserve to be called God's slaves
We don't deserve God calling us sons
And yet He does
He earned that right for us
He Who alone is worthy of all glory and honor took your unworthiness on Himself
And He faced the wrath of God for your rejection of God's Law
And for His sacrifice on your behalf, God has given you His worthiness in exchange
He has removed your sin by becoming a Servant
He did more than just untie shoes—He washed the stinky feet
And through not only the Word and Sacraments, but through people like John the Baptist and people like me and you, He continues to bless and love us
And He will be with you to serve you, His beloved child, until the final resurrection and for all eternity in Jesus' name. Amen.
Now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
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